Why Would We Be Without Rule of Law (WROL)?
A scenario where a community is without rule of law (WROL) would be catastrophic. Governance is the reason behind our continued progress. Deterrence measures like the threat of prison time for breaking the law help to ensure citizens keep in line. The collective understanding of what is right and wrong helps to unify a population. If our social governance mechanisms were to break down, then social order would devolve into chaos. What could possibly destroy the institutions we’ve built over centuries? The three biggest threats that would leave us without rule of law are global disaster, distrust of government, and war. I’ll discuss each in more detail below.
1. Global Disaster
To put it simply, global disasters like the coronavirus are scary. When people are scared, they think selfishly and sometimes irrationally. Sales of Corona beer have declined and many people stopped buying Chinese food. Both of these reactions to the coronavirus are irrational, but they’re borne out of fear. Imagine what would happen if the coronavirus were more lethal. If people believed they could die, what’s deterring them from breaking the law? Fear of death is enough to make people act as if they have nothing to lose. If we reach this point, we’ll be without rule of law.
Our institutions function under the assumption that people generally follow the law. In the wake of a global disaster, our institutions will buckle under the pressure. Opportunists will start looting, privileged people will be targeted, and leadership will decentralize. This scenario is played out very well in William Forstchen’s One Second After series. I highly recommend it.
2. Distrust of Government
No one likes paying taxes. That said, there’s a reason why we do. We expect the government to protect us and provide for us. If we start distrusting the government, then why would we continue following its rules? Let’s use Somalia as an example. Somalia typically tops the list of global failed states. Regional warlords rule over small territories within Somalia. Local militias fight one another, destroy property, and create general instability. Distrust of a central government is high, which has limited Somalia’s development. These conditions resulted in a failed state without rule of law. While there is promise that Somalia may be turning the corner, we can see the havoc distrust of government and wreak on a country.
War is often the means by which countries attempt to expand their territory or influence. As an example, during WWII, Hitler attempted to dominate the world under the Third Reich’s rule. Before erecting a new institution, the old one is destroyed. This interim period is completely unstable. Neither the Third Reich nor Hitler survived their attempt at global domination. We are, however, left with the lessons of the tragedy caused and followed by war.
Throughout history, wars between nations have had devastating impacts. The impacts haven’t been limited to those fighting on the battlefield, though. Countries transitioning between regimes can be without rule of law. Resistance to an occupying nation prevents a new set of laws from being implemented. Rules of war are the only rules being followed. Once the war is over, distrust in the new government may prevent order from being restored. Today, Iraq still hasn’t regained completely stability even with US troop counts declining steadily.
How Can We Prevent Countries From Being Without Rule of Law?
Law can be maintained with better global coordination. If countries engage in better disaster preparedness, government relations, and war prevention efforts, they’ll reduce the risk of being without rule of law. With all the risks we face, we can never guarantee all WROL scenarios will be avoided. However, we can mitigate the risks by taking proactive measures to stabilize global societies. Otherwise, Somalia will have more company on the list of failed states.
Do you have thoughts on how to avoid society without rule of law? Leave a comment below or contact me directly.